William Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the greatest propounders of English Literature. unlike his affluent predecessors, hailing from the University of Oxford and Cambridge, he was ” schooled in nature’s school”. He was an English poet, a playwright and an actor. Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon and is often regarded as the ‘Bard of Avon.’ He is considered as the national poet in England. His works range over a vast spectrum of various genres, of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, some long narrative poems and other verses. There exists considerable controversy regarding his physical attributes, sexuality, religious beliefs etc. Some of his famous tragedies include Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear. Shakespeare died on 23rd of April, 1616 at the age of 52, survived by his wife and two daughters.
The Seven Ages of Man is an excerpt from one of Shakespeare’s comedies, As You Like It. The poem begins with a phrase, ‘All the world’s a stage’ which is very prolific and relevant.
In this poem, Shakespeare compares life to a stage where man has been assigned a specific role for a specific duration of time and his divided life into seven stages each having its own varied qualities and features.
Summary and Analysis of The Seven Ages of Man:
Summary of The Seven Ages of Man-
Shakespeare considers the world a stage and men and women actors on the stage of life. They play seven roles according to their age. The first stage, as described by the poet, is the infant who is being carried by a nurse. The infant cries and vomits all the time. Later, that infant grows into a schoolboy, not willing to attend the school which is the second stage of a man’s life. The third stage is that of a lover who is lost in his thoughts of love. The lover writes poetry in praise of his beloved’s beauty. In the fourth stage, as he grows older, he joins the army and becomes a soldier. He is physically fit and is aggressive, short-tempered and ambitious in nature. His shining face has now acquired specks of beard as signs of his maturity. His blood now boils with passion and he is engaged in chasing the fleeting reputations of honour and glory.
The fifth stage shows that with maturity and wisdom, the family man becomes a judge. With age he has accustomed to the corrupt ways of the society, indulging in bribery to sate his needs. His look is authoritative and he advises people. The sixth stage is about the man who has grown old and is seen in a pantaloon and spectacles. His authoritative voice has grown weak and his voice trembles as he talks. He returns to the initial stage of his infancy, loosing all the majestic features of his glory years The last stage is about the senile man who loses his teeth, his vision and his hearing. After this, the man part in the play ends and he exits from the stages of his life forever.
The Seven Ages of Man Analysis
Shakespeare wants to render a message through his poem, The Seven Ages of Man that men and women are ‘merely players’ in the drama that life is. They are termed as ‘merely players’ because no one lives forever but plays his or her part and departs. At birth, they enter a stage, throughout their life they cater to the roles specified and during death, they take their leave. The poem revolves around the idea that each man has his own purpose in life and that all other digressions that we suffer through are mere distractions. The man passes through these seven phases of life in accordance with their age.
The poem is composed in free verse. The style is narrative. The poem describes seven different stages of life in a brief manner but has a powerful impact throughout.
Metaphor in The Seven Ages of Man:
A metaphor is that figure of speech where comparison of two different things is implied but not clearly stated. Examples of metaphor in the poem are as follows,-
*All the world’s a stage
*And all men and women are merely players
*seeking the bubble reputation (reputation has been termed as short-lived like a bubble)
Simile in The Seven Ages of Man:
A simile is a figure of speech in which two dissimilar objects are compared and the comparison is made clear by the use of terms like ‘like’, ‘such as’ and so on. Examples of simile in the poem are,
*Sighing like furnace
*creeping like a snail
*bearded like the pard
Alliteration in The Seven Ages of Man:
Alliteration is the close repetition of the consonant sounds at the beginning of words to facilitate narration. Example of alliteration in the poem is,
*plays his part
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Suggested Reading: Summary of The Seven Ages of Man in Hindi